Friday, April 20, 2018


"Time is money". This is what Americans say. And I think I am more American in this than Indian. 

I think I have always been punctual, don't know how. I remember rarely being late for meeting with friends or any other appointments. And I have always appreciated my friends who have been punctual. All the interviews I went to were on time and moved like clockwork. Somehow I find that very satisfying. I feel like life is moving fine. 

As I am getting older, time is becoming an important commodity. And this punctuality thing has become a habit now. We go about in our lives without realizing how important time is. People don't take it seriously. 

As a professor, I am never late to my classes. I do what I expect my students to do, be on time to class. If I am going to be late, I let them know in advance. In the same token, I don't like students walking in late to my classes. That is one thing that bothers me a lot. Once or twice is fine, but some students just don't come on time. It is disruptive and disrespectful. 

All my American friends have been really great. Whenever I have met them, they are early or there within 5 mins of when we are to meet. It's possible I learned from them on never to be late. I hate to have my friends waiting for me. It has happened a couple times because I could not see where they were sitting inside a restaurant - well....they could have waited for me in the waiting area, that is what I would have done. I would rather be the one waiting for them....

For all the American get togethers, events start on time. For all the Indian get togethers it's one hour later. It really bugs me that I will get there on time. The poor host is ready on time, but the guests don't seem to care.  It just goes to show again, disrespect.

And then there are the doctors who will always make you wait. I understand 15-20 mins, but beyond that is irritating.  If I made an appointment, then why make me wait more than 20 mins?? 

Not being on time just means you don't respect your own time and especially do not respect the other person or their time. You don't value them enough to save their precious commodity of time. Time that they spent waiting for you, they will never get back.

And last thing I want to say is "timing is everything". If you don't respect time, then you probably don't have good timing in life for other things and it's possible you might miss some golden opportunities in life. On the other hand, some people are just lucky - nothing can cause them to be more accountable.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The End of the Semester

As the semester ends there are a variety of emotions from the students …. And me also.  The one part of the semester I don’t like is assigning grades. I feel that students should assess themselves based on how much they think they learned. But of course, no one can honestly assess themselves with objectivity (even instructors sometimes don’t assign grades with objectivity).

I don’t know what happens to the students by the 3rd exam. Its only then that they realize how they are doing in class, and then I have students writing to me, asking me personally what they can do to improve their grades. But after the 3rd exam its really tough for anyone to improve drastically to change the letter grade to one higher. I get reasons like: I spent one hour solving this one problem, and I wonder – WHY? Why would anyone spend so much time on just one problem? I have learned to move on to other problems and then come back to that one problem I could not do before. I even tell them to do this – why don’t they learn to move on? 

Then there is the classic, “I am getting As in all my classes except yours”, well….I don’t know. I cannot comment on that one until I see their transcripts.

Another one, which is probably a little more honest, I did not give this class enough time.

I just don’t know how to guide these students anymore. There is so much going on in their lives: classes, work, family and of course the ever present, phone. I just cannot believe them when they say that they study 2 hours for my class and still get only a C. It means they are just not studying the right way or they think that opening the book is considered studying. And one has to think themselves and realize, what am I doing wrong if I am studying this long and not getting the grade? They should think about getting help early on. But there is a general feeling of self confidence (or lack of it) that does not let them get help.

The other culprit I think, is work. They work to pay for the course (maybe?). But the problem arises when the work takes precedence over education. Some students can manage it all, but most cannot.  One of the things I really like about our Indian culture is that studies are done in the first 25 years of the life. And I can see the benefits of it. One has to get education out of the way before you start a family or work. How can you give education the time it needs when you have kids or if you are reporting to a boss? And I see that conflict all the time in this college. And there is nothing I can do about it.

But one other problem I have with about 70% of the students is their lack of study skills. Study skills include taking notes, practicing problems, copying notes from one notebook to another, scheduling the right amount of time to the right subject. I will confess that I was never a high IQ student, but I did put in my time to learn the material. And I never shied away from getting help. I hardly get anyone during the semester for help.

The end of the semester brings in the typical question, “is there any extra credit”? And I never understood that question. I never had that when I was going to school. You are supposed to do everything for the given credit. If you cannot do that, then how can you do extra credit? Extra credit is supposed to be intellectually difficult – so I don’t want to give something even more difficult to do if someone cannot do the normal stuff.  And then it suddenly becomes my problem that I am not giving them extra credit.  Last year I broke down and I did give extra credit – out of 36 students, only 2 took advantage of it. So there goes that idea!

I am at a loss as to how to motivate my students to do better and show them that education is the only solution to all problems. It gives one a better life and a chance to succeed. If they are going to college, they must realize that aspect. Chemistry is a hard subject, no one takes it for fun, so one must be ready for the time they have to spend on it too. And I think that if you cannot handle the heat, get out of the fire. It’s possible that chemistry is not for everyone. But how do you say that to a student?

Every semester I go through the same emotions.Every semester I feel that the students should have the responsibility to take care of their education and the acceptance of whatever they get as a result of their work.